Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Life of an Author: Book Awards

The Life of An Author

As I was contemplating leaving sports broadcasting back in 1999, a friend of mine took me out to dinner to talk about my options, then told me to hold off on dessert because she had a surprise-- she’d booked a session for me with a clairvoyant.

“You’ll become known for your works of the hand,” the clairvoyant announced, scribbling the air with an invisible pen. “And your books will win awards.”
Now, no matter how skeptical you are about a person’s ability to see the future, when they tell you something you’d like to hear, I, for one, tend to believe it.

Her bold words crossed my mind when my first novel, Little Joe came out in 2010. A year later, the same friend asked me, “No award yet, huh? I guess the clairvoyant must have meant your next book.”

We were nearly into 2012 when I’d heard that Little Joe had won the silver medal in the Austin Waldorf School’s Children’s Choice Award. I was so thrilled and honored, I celebrated for a week, and my colleagues joked that if I could get this excited about a school award, “we may have to sedate you” if I got one that reached state, or even national status.

Then Little Joe made the final list for this year's South Carolina Children’s Book Award. While I didn’t need to be sedated (though I ate several red velvet cupcakes, but they were the miniature kind), I was just as thrilled. And I couldn’t help but think back to that evening with the clairvoyant more than thirteen years ago.

While I’m still new at being an author (I’m working on book number three), I’m convinced that every author wants to have their works be recognized. I think if a children's writer told you that it didn’t matter if their books were considered for the Newbery, the Printz, the Sibert or the National Book Award, they’d be denying you full disclosure.

Having your book considered for an award means several things, and the most important one for me is this: enough people (reviewers, librarians, booksellers, bloggers and teachers) thought so highly of the book that they had it nominated.

This touches me deeply. To have the characters I’ve created, nurtured, and felt every emotion with touch someone else (and more than a few) enough to say to another, “I think you should read this book because it might affect you too,” gives me the added strength and courage to begin another novel. It makes the 300 blank pages before me a little less daunting; the months of research--which often tend to compound rather than contract--telling and re-telling my story until it’s as right as I can make it, worth delving into.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you won, just like the clairvoyant predicted?” my friend said to me.

“It doesn’t matter,” I told her. And I wasn’t lying. What means more to me is being nominated—for that’s a monumental triumph in itself. After that, the territory becomes as murky and unpredictable as a lottery win—the result owed in part to a sprinkling of fairy dust, lucky charms, and numbers. And just as I don’t hinge my actions on the reading of a clairvoyant, I don’t want to count on luck, either. I’d rather keep writing, knowing that my work has touched more than a few people who read thousands of books, than spend time thinking about winning.


  1. Great post. The clairvoyant saw wisely or with luck. This comment from someone who has been touched by your writing.

  2. Thanks Kathy,

    About the same time that you were writing this comment, I was reading one of your poems titled, Where I Am From. The lines threading us to your family moved me, from pink gravy to train rides to "best friends who are related."